Diabetic Diet: What foods to eat and avoid

Important food groups to help control your Diabetes and what to avoid. Compare the recommended diets and decide what works for you.

The diabetic diet debate: Decide for yourself.

What foods should Diabetics eat?

Professor Tim Noakes certainly knows how to set the cat among the pigeons.

After being a strong supporter of high carbohydrate intake for exercise and sports performance, he turned about face to shun all carbs. An internet search of his approach to healthy eating brings up an array of negative and confusing headlines.

A Times Media article explains that “Noakes’s high-fat diet or eating plan, also known as the Banting diet, is for people who are diabetic or overweight. It promotes eating saturated fats, avoiding all sugar and reducing carbohydrates to about 50g a day.” The controversy surrounding Prof Noakes diet stems from a lack of long-term, substantiated evidence.

Colleagues of Noakes’ from UCT “sent a letter to the Editor of the Cape Times to warn readers that Banting may result in nutritional deficiencies, as well as an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, kidney problems, constipation, certain cancers and excessive iron stores in some people,” reports Health24 in an article earlier this year. His diet was even labelled ‘criminal’ by a Johannesburg cardiologist last year.

What is a Diabetic to do? Which diet do you entrust your health to? The choice can only be yours; but if we could offer any advice, it would be to consult a dietician who would ensure that your diet meets your specific needs. Diabetes is not a condition to take lightly; and with diet being a huge factor in the control of diabetes it deserves thorough understanding, and dare we say, no rash decisions.

Compare the diets below suggested by Prof Noakes, Diabetes SA, Diabetes UK and the American Diabetes Association. You’ll notice commonalities among them and of course some differences too. The diets recommended by these organisations are based on decades of study whereas the Noakes diet is obviously more recent.

Decide for yourself.

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Comparing recommended diets for Diabetics

Tim Noakes’ Banting diet 


  • Eggs (free range).
  • Meat – beef, game e.g. ostrich.
  • Fish.
  • Dairy – full cream milk. Yoghurt, cheese.
  • Green leafy vegetables.
  • Nuts – almonds, macadamias, walnuts.
  • Fruits rich in colour.


  • Sugars – sugary drinks, artificial sweeteners, pastries, cakes, sweets, sugary desserts.
  • Pasta, pizza.
  • White rice.
  • White potatoes.
  • Oats and breakfast cereals.
  • Fruits rich in sugar.
  • Vegetable oils.

Diabetes SA recommended diet

  • Eat plenty of bread, cereals, pulses, vegetables, fruit.
  • Limit your sugar intake.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Limit your fat intake.
  • Cut back on salt.
  • Limit your alcohol intake.

Diabetes UK recommended diet

Choices of type and quantity of the foods in these 5 groups will vary from person to person and will depend on your goals and needs:

  1. Fruit and vegetables.
  2. Starches – bread, rice, pasta, potatoes.
  3. Dairy.
  4. Non-dairy proteins – meat, fish, eggs, beans.
  5. Foods high in fat/sugar.

American Diabetes Association recommended diet

This website identifies what it calls ‘superfoods’ to be included in as many meals as possible, and then considers other food groups:

  • Superfoods – beans, dark green leafy vegetables, citrus fruit, sweet potatoes, berries, tomatoes, fish (salmon), whole grains, nuts, fat-free milk and yoghurt.
  • Healthy fats e.g. monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and Omega fatty acids.
  • Limited alcohol.
  • Lots of non-starchy vegetables.
  • Certain grains and starchy vegetables.
  • Certain proteins.
  • Zero/low-calorie drinks.
  • Low fat/fat-free dairy.
  • Fresh fruit.

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